More Messages: Hope Springs Eternal

Today's Rocky Mountain News sports an intriguing investigation into Hope Online Learning Academy Co-Op, a taxpayer supported charter network of 81 schools in Colorado that's run afoul of critics. It's fine work that might not have been done if the Denver Post hadn't goaded the Rocky into taking a closer look at the operation.

As pointed out in this More Messages item from October 19, Rocky types have been in Hope's corner for quite a stretch. A section of Hope's website contains links to a pair of laudatory Rocky pieces from July, and a subsequent editorial boosting the concept can be accessed here. The Post, in contrast, has been more skeptical, and in a front page article published on October 18, reporters Karen Rouse, Jennifer Brown and Allison Sherry charged that taxpayer dollars "are sending hundreds of students to private faith-based institutions." The next day, the Rocky responded with an offering that cited promised changes at Hope, but failed to mention that these alterations had been motivated by the Post's revelations.

Today's Rocky salvos build on the Post's findings. The initial effort, by Nancy Mitchell and Lou Kilzer, leads with the following: "State tax money flowing into the controversial Hope Online Learning Academy Co-Op is not only supporting religious programs, it appears to be keeping some religious schools alive." That's followed by a Kilzer expose that focuses on Lakewood's Christian Fellowship school. Its straight-forward headline reads, "Shifting of Money Could Be Illegal."

The Rocky deserves a back-pat for these reports, which are thorough and direct. Nevertheless, a big question remains: Did journalists at the paper fail to properly scrutinize Hope months ago because of the Rocky's pro-Hope editorial stance? Circumstantial evidence gives at least some credence to this theory.

Bottom line: The Rocky only got serious about digging into alleged Hope hinkiness after the Post uncovered what look to be legitimate issues. The results likely spell the end to puffy Hope editorials, and that's a good thing, since they may have delayed the information that's only now coming to light. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts